But apparently there are enough ghosts in historic Ellicott City that Schoppert said he he's thinking about a possible fourth ghost tour.

Ghost tours have their merits beyond a few thrills and chills, Bonacci said. "It really is a way to tell the stories about the town," she said. "We've got great history," she said.

And they've got great story tellers too. Bonacci praised the guides who engage their listeners without any special effects. "They are captivated by the art of story telling," she said.


While mortals stroll the streets of Ellicott City in search of ghost stories, one immortal will come to life above them all amid the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" will be staged 18 evenings in October.

"I don't think there's been anything more suited to that space at this time of year than Dracula," said Michael Sullivan, who plays the vampire. 

Sullivan, who appeared in two other "movable productions," — "Our Town" and "Julius Caesar" — said the setting enhances their production.

Quoting one of his lines, "the battlements are broken and the shadows are many," Sullivan said, "It's very true of the space we're performing in."

"It's kind of creepy there at night," added Scott Alan Small, the director. He described the scene as they finish for the night: crumbling walls, deep shadows and resident bats swooping around them. "You don't want to be there."

The setting is perfect for the classic horror story— although Small said they'll add other elements to set the mood, such as a cemetery, fog, cape and fangs.

Fangs have proven to be one of Sullivan's challenges. He has worked hard to learn to speak with them, and with an Eastern European accent. In addition, his wife, who is terrified of all things vampire, has banned the fake teeth from their house.

"Dracula" is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's sixth "movable production," according to Ian Gallanar, CSC's artistic director.

Audience members can expect "some stage magic and surprises that will be fun," he said. So don't expect lasers or hydraulic lifts, or even a lot of blood. "We think it's more fun to have it suggested," Gallanar said. 

Small noted that everyone knows the story of the famous vampire — "some version of it anyway." This show is adapted from a 1970s Broadway production that starred Frank Langella.

It's an "old-school" production, Gallanar added. "It's Count Dracula."


Ellicott City's reputation for spookiness led a local novelist to choose the town for a convention of writers and fans of paranormal, SteamPunk and horror writing. They will swoop into town Oct. 25-27, gathering at local restaurants for panel discussions while partaking of ghost tours and a production of "Dracula."

Rachel Rawlings, a Howard High graduate who co-owns Salon Marielle with her mother, decided this region needed its own horror convention while she was attending similar gatherings in New York.

"We don't really have anything like this," said Rawlings, who is at work on her fourth "slightly dark and action packed" novel. And the big conventions she has attended don't have the intimate settings Ellicott City offers readers and writers.  

Apparently it was an idea whose time had come. Rawlings invited 13 of her writer friends, and now 28 have signed on, coming from as far as Seattle and Georgia. And Fangoria, a New York-based horror fan magazine, signed on in mid-September as a partner, giving the conference national exposure. Owner Tom DeFeo is expected to join one of the panels. Local and nationally-known writers, including authors of The New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, are expected, as are several visual artists.

"It's definitely a strong list of people," Rawlings said. 

Ticket sales are brisk, although space for a few more readers still is available.

"It's an opportunity for them to engage with the authors they read," Rawlings said.

Rawlings admitted she looked at other places — towns with a hotel big enough to hold all the events. But she ultimately chose Ellicott City and found rooms in local restaurants and hotels, including Cacao Lane, Diamondback Tavern, Trolley Stop and the Howard County Historical Society museum. Participants have an option to see "Dracula," take a ghost tour or enjoy a Steam Punk Tea at Tea on the Tiber.

"I do love the town," she added. "The town becomes itself a feature of the convention."